Like traffic in Boston, the discussions about transportation options never seem to come to an end.
On November 24, those talks will continue when the City Council’s Committee on City, Neighborhood Services, and Veteran Affairs hosts a public hearing about on-demand transit apps like Uber and Lyft, and the traditional services like taxicabs that must abide by stricter governmental regulations when operating on the streets, picking up passengers.
First filed by City Council President Bill Linehan back in July, the meeting, which representatives from the taxi industry and Uber are being encouraged to attend, will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Iannella Chamber at City Hall.
There’s not much in terms of topic discussion outlined in the request for the hearing, but Linehan alludes to the fact that taxis and pedi-cabs are both heavily regulated by the city’s Hackney Carriage Unit, headed by the Boston Police Department, while the newcomers that rely on smartphone technology to allow people to hail a ride to their next destination have no such restrictions in place.
“[They] have been operating within the city of Boston for several years, competing for a substantial share of the city’s transportation services,” said Linehan’s call for a public meeting on the topic. “Uber and Lyft are performing the same service as taxis and pedi-cabs.”
Linehan argues that those regulations exist for the consumer’s sake; meaning “public safety” and protection.
Calls to Linehan’s office about the meeting were not immediately returned. A request for comment from Uber representatives about whether or not anyone would attend the hearing was also unsuccessful.
As the City Council gears up to take on the topic on their own terms, Mayor Marty Walsh has been quietly keeping his eye on the matter as well.
Back in October, Walsh announced the formation of a 24-member “Taxi Advisory Committee,” tasked with sitting down together to iron out policy and regulatory recommendations that could serve as the framework to help support the city’s taxi industry in a time when rapidly-changing technology is skirting the rules by offering innovative alternatives.
“Boston’s industry is unique in many aspects, but common themes can be seen throughout, as cities and states work to get a grasp on the changing face of transportation,” Walsh said when he launched the task force. “We look forward to engaging the public in several ways to gather valuable input and feedback from the people.”